Photo by Ernest Estime
When I think of Ohio Hip Hop, names like Kid Cudi, Hi-Tek, and the more obvious, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, come to mind. That short but sweet list now must make room for it’s newest contender, rapper Stalley. The Massillon born Kyle Myricks kept his head on the basketball court, “at one point in time that was pretty much my life and part of my growth, and what helped me get where I am now,” he said. Where he is far from hoop dreams, as an injury on the court shifted his attention to the microphone.
Since 2008 Stalley has made his patient moves as an emcee in the form of two major mixtapes and alignment with some of the biggest brands and artists in our culture, while moving closer and closer into the iPods of nearly every Hip Hop head. With a signature chopped flow over jazz-hop jewels, the rookie Sunni-Muslim mic controller plans to control the game creatively with the forces that be Creative Control, Dame Dash, Ski Beatz, and Mos Def behind him. Take it from the man himself, “I believe God gives us talent for much more than that quick thrill.” Stalley is sure to not be that quick thrill as he writes his autobiography through music.
Read our exclusive interview with Stalley below in which he talks the change from b-ball court to microphone booth, small town to big city, and tells how a chance meeting with Mos Def changed his life forever.
RubyHornet: What were your creative outlets growing up in a small town like Massillion, Ohio?
Stalley: My creative outlets growing up were my city. Just growing up in a small town and not seeing much outside of it, I would let my mind go and just imagine where I would want to be or get myself to and that would help drive my inspiration and creativity.
RubyHornet: You put a lot of emphasis on the fact that you were a basketball player before taking music seriously. Were you the typical sports head when you were younger?
Stalley: I wouldn’t say I put a lot of emphasis on it, I would just say at one point in time that was pretty much my life and part of my growth, and what helped me get where I am now. I will never forget or let it go unheard or unnoticed. I am a huge sports fan, but I think most guys growing up in the Midwest are, especially being from a small town that has been built on high school sports growing up as a young kid. I would have to say I was an all around sports fan.
RubyHornet: I understand that your name, Stalley, is a shortened version of your basketball nickname, Stallion. Is the name change indicative of the switch from sports to music in that there are new elements, yet some practices or attitudes from sports that translate into how you approach music?
Stalley: Yeah, there is most definitely a lot of the same work ethic and practices from sports that I have brought over to my pen. In any goal you have it takes a lot of hard work and dedication and that’s what sports have taught me over the years. My nickname was Stalley during my years of ball, but “Stallion” was like the Boys and Girls club days. As a young kid I thought “Stallion” was kinda corny so I gave it my own creative twist and ran with Stalley, which was more fitting for someone with a lot of composure and confidence, like myself.
RubyHornet: You went to college in New York after a stint at Michigan, which must have been a drastic environment change from your home. How did you deal with the big city and did it help motivate you?
Stalley: It was a big move in my life, not only from the aspects of sports and school, but just going to a large city like New York coming from a small town in the Midwest was exciting, frustrating, and scary all at the same time, not knowing what to expect. I came from only having to worry about grades and basketball to having to worry about being in this big city, school and basketball, and I was coming off a big injury so it was different in a lot of ways, but one thing it did was motivate me and help me grow not only as a person, but as a man. I had to go from being a boy to a man right away, plus I was transitioning from a big high school and college basketball program to a smaller school/program in New York.
Photo by : Evan Brockett
RubyHornet: Living in a sports driven town and being brought up in that environment, how did your family take to your new pursuit in music?
Stalley: My family is really into music, and growing up my aunts and uncles who were singers and musicians would always sing and play at family events, so music has always been a part of our family. My pursuit of music did throw them off cause growing up I always played music with everything I did whether it was going to sleep, waking up, playing basketball, playing video games or having the television on mute watching Sports Center and listening to the radio. I loved music, but I never wrote or performed music, so it did surprise my family when I decided to take music seriously. How fast it has grown really caught them off guard, but they are very supportive in my choice.
RubyHornet: You’ve worked with Terry Urban, and now Dame Dash, it’s interesting to think about where you’ve come from and who you’ve met, is there any element of fate or destiny at play here in your opinion?
Stalley: It’s a little of both. I always knew I had a voice for a reason, not just to be a regular dude. Growing up I would have dreams of me being on stage or me hitting the game winning shot, but that wasn’t the end of the dream, it always would end with me giving some type of speech or advice to help people. Now you can say performing or hitting a game winning shot helps people also by giving them happiness or the joy and thrill of victory, or helping through the music, but I believe God gives us talent for much more than that quick thrill. I believe the talent is given for a lifelong thrill, and I feel it’s always been my destiny to do just that, and to be great and use it the way God wants me to use his gifts. Meeting people at the right times and in the right places is part of that fate; to do what I am here to do.
RubyHornet: I’m sure one thing people notice first about you is your beard, how long has it been growing, and is it attached to any other significance?
Stalley: Yeah it is, and the beard has been growing since I started doing music, which is about 2 years now, and it has a couple significant reasons behind it. First, I wanted something to grow with me as I grew as an artist; something to come with me on the journey of my ups and downs, good and bad. Second, I am a Sunni Muslim and it’s part of my religion and me reflecting on all the prophets and great men who had beards before me who were all wise and humbled in their ways of greatness. Like them all I try to live my life.
RubyHornet: How do you feel your music has grown since your first release?
Stalley: It has grown a lot. The music has gotten deeper and more personal, the way I wanted it to. It has grown because I have grown as a man and I love that I can express my growth as a person and as a man through the music without being scared to be personal. I let the listeners into my life without hiding my true self in any way.
RubyHornet: When did your more recent relationships with Dame and everyone surrounding his new creative endeavors happen to come about?
Stalley: It happened like 5 to 6 months ago when I was introduced to Coodie and Chike (the heads of Creative Control) to do my first-ever music video and visual for the title song “The Autobiography” off of the MadStalley: The Autobiography project.
RubyHornet: You’ve known Mos Def for quite some time, how has he helped you? Is there somewhat of a mentor relationship involved with him?
Stalley: Yeah I would say Mos is like a mentor and a big brother to me. He was the first one to ever hear my first piece of work I ever recorded, which was a 6 track EP and he was like “this is dope, what are you trying to do with this? Are you indie?” and I had literally just picked the cd up from the engineer like one hour before he heard it in the store I was playing it in, so I told him I didn’t know what to do or where to start, and then he gave me his number and info and we developed that relationship, and he has been a good friend ever since.
RubyHornet: Ski Beatz is the in house producer at DD172 and obviously someone you’ve been working with a lot lately. How would you describe your relationship with him?
Stalley: Ski is not only an amazing producer, but an amazing person. He is also like a brother to me. Ski always has something positive to say and has been helpful to me in creating the music I want to create with the certain sound I want. Working with him has just been amazing; his track record is incredible so it’s just a blessing to work with someone like Ski.
RubyHornet: You have your own mini-series coming out with creative control. What’s your opinion on their recent take over of the viral internet with their amazing production?
Stalley: They are trendsetters and taking over the internet like you said. The way they give visuals is like no other and I love what they are doing. It’s very creative and clean and organic and it fits the music I make so well so it’s just perfect and it’s just one of those fate situations like we spoke about earlier, cause before them I was searching for someone to give me the visuals I wanted and right away when we did “The Autobiography” video, before I said anything, they had what I wanted in their head and we shot the video in 30 minutes and it was perfect. My webisode series is out now it’s called “The Milq” on Creativecontrol.tv; make sure everyone checks that out.
RubyHornet: Lastly, what is up next for Stalley as the spring and summer hit?
Stalley: Well, right now I have been traveling and doing shows, but in a few weeks I am going to start working on an EP I plan to release late spring/early summer and me and Ski are 5 songs deep into an LP me and him are working on, so I have a lot coming. Keep your eyes and ears on Stalley this spring and summer.